• Rail securityThwarted train attack in France highlights U.S. rail vulnerability

    Airports are protected by several layers of security, but railroad stations have minimal, if any, protective measures, and there are no security checks through which those who take the train must pass. The attempted attack on the high-speed train from Brussels to Paris, an attack foiled by the quick courageous action of three Americans and Briton, only highlights the vulnerability to attack of U.S. rail. Security experts say, however, that trains remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks. A recent study, which analyzed terrorist attacks over a 30-year period from 1982 to 2011, found that terrorists have shifted their focus in recent years away from attacking airlines to attacking subway and rail systems. The deadliest attacks in the decade 2002-2011 were against subway and commuter rail systems.

  • CyberjackingHackers take remote control of a Jeep, forcing it into a ditch

    Security experts have called on owners of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicles to update their onboard software to make their vehicles better protected against hackers. The call comes after researchers demonstrated they could hack and take control of a Jeep over the Internet. The researchers disabled the engine and brakes and crashed the Jeep into a ditch – while the driver was sill behind the wheel.

  • Rail securitySensors can help railways detect, cope with electromagnetic attacks

    Eleven years ago the Madrid train bombings proved how much European railway security still needed to be improved. Now that rail equipment — like in most other industries — is increasingly standardized and connected, however, another, more insidious type of offensive has become likely: electromagnetic (EM) attacks. An EU-funded project has developed detection technologies that can help the sector face this new threat. Virginie Deniau, coordinator of the SECRET project, discusses the devices developed by her team to identify electromagnetic (EM) attacks as they occur so that operators can switch to a safe railway mode.

  • Crude-by-railChicago, center of fracking oil shipments, debates rail safety

    Chicago is home to the busiest crossroads of the nation’s rail network, and the country’s boom in oil fracking has led the city to see not only a massive increase in crude oil transferred by rail in the region, but also debates about the public safety of such an influx. The Windy City has experienced a 4,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008, with many of the densely packed suburbs surrounding the city located very close to rail lines and switches.

  • Crude-by-railWashington State requires railroads to plan for the “largest foreseeable spill”

    Washington State governor Jay Inslee (D) has signed a new state law last month which requires railroad companies to plan with the state for the worst possible conditions when shipping crude oil. The law will require companies to plan for the “largest foreseeable spill in adverse weather conditions.” Much of the impetus for the new bill came after BNSF told Washington emergency responders in April that the company considers the worst-case spill scenario to involve 150,000 gallons of crude oil from the Bakken region, which includes parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan, Canada. That amount of crude is carried by five tanker cars — but BNSF crude-oil trains often consist of 100 or more rail tank cars.

  • HackingA growing threat: Car hacking

    A string of high-profile hacks — the most recent on President Obama’s personal email account — have made cybercrime an ever-growing concern in the United States. Despite the publicity, most people still think of hacking as something which is done only to information systems like computers and mobile devices. In reality, hacking is no longer confined to the information world. The level of automation in modern physical systems means that even everyday automobiles are now vulnerable to hacking. Researchers are now looking into the growing threat of automotive hacking. “More and more in your everyday life you see that we’re automating physical systems,” one researcher says. “And unlike an information system, a physical system could kill you by accident.”

  • view counter
  • Rail securityPositive train control could have prevented Amtrak derailment, but it’s not quite on track

    By Jeffrey C. Peters

    Positive train control (PTC), a safety technology for rail transportation, may have been able to prevent the 12 May 2015 accident in which a northbound Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 carrying 238 passengers to New York from Washington, D.C. derailed near Philadelphia. PTC is a system designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and the movement of a train through a switch left in the wrong position. The Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA08) mandated that PTC must be implemented on about 60,000 miles of U.S. track by the end of 2015. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) estimates that the total capital cost for full PTC deployment according to law would be about $10 billion (about one year’s worth of capital investments for the major U.S. railroads) and annual maintenance costs of $850 million. The costs of implementing PTC remain a significant barrier – but not the only barrier. In addition to costs, PTC has faced barriers in technical implementation, namely system interoperability and allocation of communication spectrum.

  • RailDesigning the future of rail travel

    Increased traffic, congestion, security of energy supply, and climate change are just some of the many pressing issues that the EU currently faces. In order fully to tackle these challenges, the railway sector must modernize and take on a larger share of transport demand over the next few decades. EU-funded researchers have just begun work on three exciting projects that could very well determine the shape of rail travel in the coming years.

  • RailStrengthening increasingly unstable rail tracks

    The big chunks of rock — crushed limestone or dolomite that engineers call ballast — which keep railroad tracks in place look like a solid footing even as freight cars rumble overhead. Temperature and vibration, however, can destabilize ballast over time, keeping it from safely transferring the weight of a loaded train to the soil below, draining water, and preventing vegetation from crowding the tracks. In some states, a booming industry of mining sand for use by oil and gas drillers in hydraulic fracturing has presented a new challenge: fine grains of sand can leak from rail cars, accumulate in rail bed ballast and, during a rainstorm, turn into mushy, track-loosening mud.

  • Rail safetyCrumbling infrastructure to blame for growing number of derailments: Experts

    Transportation industry analysts say the increase in the number of derailments is due to a crumbling transportation infrastructure and a lack of interest in funding rail transportation. Amtrak, a federally subsidized for-profit corporation, has been the target of conservative legislators who want to cut government spending. “The problem that you have — and you’ve had it since 1976 and even before — is that there’s never been an investment program that would bring the infrastructure up where it belongs on existing capacity,” says Amtrak CEO. While derailments are usually due to equipment failures, human and environmental factors can contribute to train accidents.

  • Rail securityNew safety rules for crude oil shipments by rail criticized by both sides

    Regulators with the Department of Transportation(DOT) last Friday unveiled new rules for transporting crude oil by rail. The measures are expected to improve rail safety and reduce the risk of oil train accidents, but both the railway industry and public safety advocates have already issued criticism. Lawmakers representing states with oil trains traffic say the regulations do not go far enough in protecting the public, while railway representatives say the rules would be costly and result in few safety benefits.

  • Rail security437,000 crude oil barrels carried daily by rail from North Dakota to East Coast refineries

    In the wake of recent oil train derailments in West Virginia, and Galena, Illinois, the federal government has answered calls to release oil train figures. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, taking numbers from industry and government, report that more than one million barrels of crude oil move by train across the United States every day.Federal crude-by-rail information reveals that 437,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil were shipped daily in January from North Dakota to East Coast refineries. Those shipments passed through the Chicago area, making the region the country’s hub for oil train shipments.

  • Rail securityToronto wants Ottawa to make rail traffic through city safer

    Seventeen city councilors have joined Toronto mayor John Tory to push federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt to adopt measures meant to improve rail safety in the city. Canadian Pacific runs a rail line through Toronto, and the line carries crude oil, highly toxic substances, and radioactive materials. Considering the recent oil train accidents in Canada and the United States, residents near rail lines are concerned.

  • Transportation securityTerrorists shift focus of attacks from air transportation to rail systems

    Terrorists have shifted their focus in recent years away from attacking airlines to attacking subway and rail systems, according to an analysis of terrorist attacks over a 30-year period from 1982 to 2011. The author of the new study notes that in a previous analysis, for the period 1968 to 10 September 2001, he concluded that air travel within the United States entailed a greater risk of a terrorist attack than “virtually any other activity.” Statistically significant evidence, however, points to a growing focus of terrorist attacks against ground mass transit.

  • Rail securityRailway stations should adopt some of the security strategies deployed by airports: Experts

    A 2013 study by the U.K. Home Officerecorded crime rates across every postcode in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and found that four of the top ten U.K. crime hot spots are major railway stations. Railway stations experience large volume of crime due to their highly congested environments, which gives pickpockets and thieves opportunities to find a target. Large stations are also introducing more retail outlets, which increases the likelihood of more shoplifting offenses. Experts note that airports have many of those same characteristics, but they fare far better in crime rates. These experts argue that rail stations should adopt some of the strategies deployed by airports around the world.